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Alexander Black: The Grandfather of the Dramatic Motion Picture

Alexander (R) getting the grand tour of the lot by Adolf Zukor (L) in 1919 after hosting the tribute to Black's contribution to the motion picture industry and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first picture play, Miss Jerry, which opened in 1894. The actress in this rare photograph had always been referred to as Marion Davies by Alexander's grandson and is the only clue we have to her identity.

This site is dedicated to the gathering of information and archiving the work of Alexander Black.

Curious about his story? Here are some links to more information on this fascinating man.

"The last in the string of premovie projection entertainments was the movie's closest ancestor, the photo play. In the late nineteenth century, Alexander Black, an American author and lecturer, combined the magic-lantern slide, photography, and narrative to produce a complete play with live narrator, live actors, and pictorial slides. Unlike the stroboscopic lantern shows, the goal of these entertainments was not the visual novelty of reproduced motion but the realization of the same stories and dramas that drew audiences to the live theatre. Some of these photo plays lasted a full two hours and contained as many as four slides a minute. A striking connection between the photo play and the early movies is that both used the same melodramatic plots and stereotyped characters."

Miss Jerry, The First Picture Play. an article by Alexander Black published in 1895

Before his experiments with the picture play, Alexander Black was a prominent pioneer in the popular photography movement of the later 19th century.

The Amateur Photographer, an article by Alexander Black published in 1887


you can make email contact from here to: Annetta Black: Archive Director / C.H. Black II: Project Pilot / Peter Black: Theories and Esoteria